Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges-Customs) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges-Excise) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges-General) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2009
I rise tonight to speak on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and its associated bills. It is impossible to cover all of this important legislation in 10 minutes, but in the time allowed I want to make some important points relevant to the legislation and to the electorate of Flynn. My government, the Rudd Labor government, has strengthened the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme because we believe that it is the responsible thing to do. On this side of the House we believe that it is in the national interest to pass this legislation this year. On this side of the House we believe that we have a responsibility to the Australian people and to our future generations to act now on climate change. And on this side of the House we believe that the business community, environment groups and the Australian people expect that the parliament will do the right thing and pass the CPRS this year.
A range of major industries and businesses in Flynn are calling for certainty on the CPRS so that they can plan investments. As I have said—and I will repeat it—major industries in my electorate of Flynn want certainty. I have met with many of them, often many times. They are all responsible corporate citizens. I have listened to their concerns and I have argued their case for them. It was and is right to preserve and protect jobs now and in the future while striking a balance with the need to protect our children and grandchildren, including their jobs in the future.
I believe that despite the CPRS future investment will continue to flow into industry in Flynn, including into the coal industry. For example, recently in May just gone we heard an announcement from Waratah Coal that a proposed coalmine in Alpha, in my electorate of Flynn, will generate 6,000 jobs and is worth an estimated $7.5 billion of investment. When asked about the effect of the CPRS on this project, the President of Waratah Coal, Peter Lynch, said, ‘I don’t think the CPRS is going to have enough of an impact to present insurmountable problems.’ So there you have it: another new 6,000 jobs and another $7.5 billion investment in the coal industry in Flynn.
I congratulate Minister Penny Wong and Parliamentary Secretary Greg Combet. Both of them have been to the electorate of Flynn, both of them have listened to my electorate’s concerns. Minister Wong has visited both Gladstone and Biloela; Mr Combet, Gladstone. I thank them both.
There are some other important points that I wish to make tonight about this legislation. The Rudd Labor government’s commitment is to use every cent it receives from the sale of pollution permits to help Australian households and businesses adjust to this scheme and invest in clean energy options. Passage of the legislative package is sought this year to provide business and investment certainty and to aid in the development of an international agreement to tackle climate change in Copenhagen later this year. There will be assistance to ensure households continue to receive the support they need. Households will be protected from higher fuel costs through a mechanism to provide cent-for-cent reductions in fuel tax for the first three years of the scheme’s operation. In addition, the government has introduced measures to ensure that households will receive support to take practical action to reduce energy use and save on energy bills.
As you know, Flynn is a large rural and regional seat. Climate change may affect life in regional Australia more than in our cities. Many rural and regional Australians depend on the land and are more likely to feel the impacts of drought, flood and extreme weather. Regional Australians in low- or middle-income households will be eligible for higher payments and lower taxes to help them adjust to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Agriculture will take a measured transition into the scheme following extensive consultation with industry. Agriculture will enter the scheme no earlier than 2015, with a decision on coverage to be made in 2013. Agricultural and fisheries industries will also benefit from the new CPRS fuel credit payment for the first three years of the scheme. The amount of the fuel credit payment will be equal to fuel tax reductions provided to motorists. Heavy vehicle transport will also receive assistance through the new CPRS fuel credit scheme, which will offset carbon costs for the first year of the scheme’s operation. This will benefit rural and regional communities, who rely significantly on road transport industries. In addition, coverage of landfill emissions is focused on major facilities, and policy changes since the white paper will reduce coverage of small rural facilities.
The government’s commitments on targets are: (1) an unconditional commitment to reduce carbon pollution by five per cent by 2020; (2) a commitment to reduce carbon pollution by 15 per cent by 2020 if there is an agreement where major developing economies commit to substantially restrain emissions and advanced economies take on commitments equivalent to Australia’s; and (3) a new, ambitious ‘25 per cent by 2020’ target if the world agrees to an ambitious global deal to stabilise levels of CO2 equivalent at 450 parts per million or lower. The introduction of mandatory obligations under the CPRS will commence on 1 July 2011 to allow the economy more time to recover from the impacts of the global financial crisis. Assistance in the form of administrative allocation of permits will be provided to new and existing firms engaged in emissions-intensive trade-exposed activities, and assistance will be targeted to the most emissions-intensive trade-exposed activities. There will be free permits worth around $3.9 billion over five years for the most emission-intensive coal-fired power generators. The government will separately establish the Australian Carbon Trust to help all Australians do their bit to reduce carbon pollution and to drive energy efficiency in commercial buildings and businesses. The Climate Change Action Fund will provide $2.75 billion to help businesses, community sector workers, regions and communities transition to a low carbon future. The scheme is a cap-and-trade scheme and to create an incentive for reforestation free Australian emissions units will be issued for net greenhouse gas removals that occur after 1 July 2010.
In summary, the Rudd Labor government is taking strong action to tackle climate change. The CPRS will ensure Australia invests in industries of the future like renewable energy—solar energy wind farms and in jobs using new technologies like clean coal and geothermal technology and energy—creating thousands of new, low-pollution jobs. Everyone, each of us, needs to do our bit, and Australians understand that. We the Rudd Labor government are making sure that the targets we put in place are appropriate and responsible, given the need to protect our economy and jobs during this global recession.
It should be noted that schemes are already operating in 27 European countries, and 28 states and provinces in the USA and Canada are introducing emission trading to reduce carbon pollution, as is New Zealand. US President Obama has committed to establishing a cap-and-trade system with the target of reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will help us to tackle climate change to ensure our kids and future generations are not left to clean up the mess. If we do not act, Australia’s economy will be left behind, meaning we will not create the low-pollution jobs of the future. Treasury modelling released in October 2008 demonstrates that economies that defer action face long-term costs that are around 15 per cent higher than those that take action now.
Malcolm Turnbull has walked out of the room. The Liberal Party are divided and still debating whether climate change even exists. The National Party are opposed to climate change policy and are climate change deniers. The Rudd Labor government is committed to sound policy to deal with climate change, and I commend the bills to the House.